Do natural products help people sleep?

Several natural sleep products are available without a prescription to treat insomnia and other sleep disorders. Although these products may help some people, they are generally for short-term use only. The process of premarket evaluation and approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is not required for over-the-counter sleep aids, dietary supplements, or herbal products. This means that the dosing may not always be correct. Incorrect dosing could lead to unintended or even dangerous side effects.

It's important to speak with a health care provider before taking any sleep aid, including any natural sleep products.

Some of the currently available natural sleep products include melatonin, valerian, chamomile, kava, and tryptophan. Agents discussed for use in sleep disorders include melatonin, valerian, 5-hydroxytryptamine, catnip, chamomile, gotu kola, hops, L-tryptophan, lavender, passionflower, and skullcap.1

Find more information about alternative therapies for sleep disorders on the website of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

  1. Cauffield, J. S., & Forbes, H. J. (1999). Dietary supplements used in the treatment of depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders. Lippincott's Primary Care Practice, 3(3), 290-304.

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